If you had told 11-year-old Marco Carducci, who was starting to take soccer more seriously with the goal of becoming a professional, that it would be possible someday for him to do that in his hometown, he says he likely would have laughed at you.
Fifteen years later, a 26-year-old Carducci recently finished his fourth season with Cavalry FC, Calgary’s Canadian Premier League club, feeling immense pride every time he steps out onto the field at Spruce Meadows. When he does, he gets to see the impact the team has on the city’s aspiring footballers of today, be that the ball boys, or those who walk out with the players for the national anthems.
It is a dream come true for Carducci, and one he isn’t looking to end anytime soon. On Friday, Cavalry FC announced the goalkeeper has signed a multi-year extension with the club.
“I feel a very special connection to this club,” Carducci told CanPL.ca this week. “Being here since day one means a lot to me, being a Calgary boy means a lot to me and I wanted to continue that. Personally, in terms of the next steps for me in my career and my development, I believe this is the place for me to continue to push myself and develop as a goalkeeper.”
Carducci was among the first-ever signings for Cavalry, when he initially put pen to paper with the club on December 12, 2018. From the moment the league started, he emerged as one of its premiere goalkeepers, earning the CPL’s inaugural golden glove award in 2019 and helping Cavalry reach the inaugural final that year against Forge FC.
Speaking of firsts, Carducci became the first CPL player to be called up by the Canadian men’s national team in August of 2019 when John Herdman selected him for a pair of Concacaf Nations League matches against Cuba. He was also part of the Cavalry side that in the 2019 Canadian Championship became the first CPL team to beat MLS opposition when they knocked out the Vancouver Whitecaps, an organization with which Carducci spent seven years.
He has now played 92 games in all competitions with Cavalry. He says that the mentality of the club, one that has made the playoffs in each of the CPL’s four seasons, is another big reason why he wants to stick around for the longterm.
“Ultimately, I want to continue to push and push myself to develop and you need to be in a setting that allows for that,” said Carducci. “Here, from top to bottom, from ownership to every single staff and player, our goal is to win. That is very important. I want to continue to build that culture, and ultimately be champions.”
This past year, however, Carducci witnessed an even more important aspect of the club, its “family mentality”. During preseason, the 26-year-old was diagnosed with testicular cancer and had to undergo a radical inguinal orchiectomy.
He says the club supported him through every step of what was an emotional and challenging journey.
“They supported me from the minute I was diagnosed, to throughout my recovery and rehab and ultimately to this day” said Carducci, later adding, “the family and community mentality that we have at this club, not just within the club but with the fans and with the external community in this city, it is really special and I’m really honoured to be a part of it.”
During the month of November, Carducci raised $3,690 for the Prostate Cancer Centre, supporting the same urologists that treated him. He continues to strive to raise awareness of the importance of early detection and seeking a doctor’s opinion if anything is out of the ordinary.
After missing the first three matches of the season, Carducci would return to the field for the club’s 2022 home opener, on May 1, and kept a clean sheet in a 1-0 victory over Pacific FC. It would be one of a league-high (tied with Forge’s Triston Henry) 10 clean sheets he put up in 2020. His play would earn him this past season’s golden glove award — the only keeper in league history to win two.
This year’s awards ceremony came as part of finals weekend in Ottawa, and Carducci stuck around for the final two days later. Having been in the league since the very start, he calls its growth “crazy” in the four seasons so far, especially considering two of them have come in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The growth we have seen is outstanding I think we have seen so many things just justifying why this league was developed and why it is so important to be here,” said Carducci. “You look at young players getting opportunities and moving on to bigger leagues. You have a guy like Joel Waterman, who played with us in 2019 who gets a call-up to the national team and is at the World Cup, among so many other things.”
As a player who has now become one of the faces of the Canadian Premier League, his new deal will ensure he continues to contribute to that growth both on and off the field. For Cavalry, he will continue to be a key player both on the field, and more and more in the locker room as well.
“It allows me to step into even more of a leadership role, which I am really excited to do, again being one of the few original guys who will be remaining on the team,” said Carducci. “I know what this club is top to bottom and I want to personify that.”